When I was in graduate school studying Communications I taught undergraduate Public Speaking classes, and I got pretty good at writing and grading ceremonial speeches. And yet I still struggled a bit when I wrote my Maid of Honor speech for my best friend’s wedding a few weeks ago. I summoned all my old public speaking tips and tricks and wrote a speech that killed it, if I do say so myself. I thought I would share a tried and true formula (and some extra tips) for those of you looking for inspiration for your perfect MOH speech.
1. Greeting and introduction: Even if you're the bride's BFF, there will be some people at the wedding who don't know who you are. Introduce yourself, and share who you are and how you know the bride. This is the perfect spot to insert a one or two line funny or sweet story about how you met. It's also a classy touch at the beginning of your speech to thank everyone for traveling from far and wide to be there to make the bride and groom's day so special, and to thank the parents (if appropriate) for hosting such a wonderful occasion.
2. Evoke an emotion and share stories: Share some wonderful memories about the bride, like when you used to play the Barbie Dress Up computer game and pick out wedding gowns. Or when she first told you that she “met an amazing guy,” and you wondered if he would be the one.
3. The groom and best wishes: "I knew they were a match made in heaven when...[insert funny, sweet story here].” Talk a bit about the groom, why he rocks, how you can tell he adores the bride, etc. Then give them your heartfelt best wishes for a happy life together.
4. Closing: There's nothing more awkward than a speech that just fizzles and dies. "Are they done? Should we clap? Would that be weird? I'll just look down and dig back into my salmon..." the guests will think. For a wedding speech, asking everyone to raise their glasses or cheers to the bride and groom is the perfect way to end the speech on a decidedly high note.
A few other tips!
Practice, practice, practice. And then practice some more, in front of someone, preferably. Stand up while you practice, project your voice, and get to a point where you don't have to look down at your notes too often (yes, you should have notes!), and the speech flows naturally. A side-note about your notes (haha), a hard copy is always best. I’ve seen MOH’s read their speech off of their phones and it just feels so odd. Even though the audience knows you’re not surfing Instagram during your MOH speech, it kinda looks like you are when you keep looking down at your phone.
Be you. Don't worry about being funny, using props, having a shtick, or singing a song. If you have an idea for one of those things, and you know the bride will love it, go for it! If not, just make sure your words come from the heart, and everything else will follow.
If you're nervous, remember to fake it 'til you make it. I used to always teach my students about the Spotlight Effect. It's the phenomenon where you think that things about yourself (i.e. your nervousness, trembling voice, shaking hands, etc.) are extremely noticeable, whereas in reality anyone else looking at you barely notices, or doesn't even notice at all. Another helpful psychology phenomenon to remember is the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you get up there and act like you're confident, the audience will respond to you with smiles, claps, etc., and suddenly you actually are feeling more confident. I definitely experienced both of these when I gave my MOH speech! Even though I was nervous (I thought the speech was going to be during dinner and then, surprise! I was handed the mic and announced by the DJ during cocktail hour.) and could feel my hands shaking and voice trembling, loads of people came up to me after the speech and complimented me on how eloquent and poised I was. When I thanked them and mentioned I was actually pretty nervous, they said they couldn’t even tell! Thank you, Spotlight Effect.
Keep it short and sweet, just like grandma. Around three minutes is great. Try not to go over five.
Have fun! Remember that it’s an honor to be part of one of the most special days of the bride and groom’s life, so don’t stress out too much, and enjoy the fact that you get to share your love for the couple with all their family and friends.
There you have it! My formula and tips for the perfect MOH speech. I hope they help you find exactly the right words for your bride’s special day!